A: Introduced and compiled by Raoul Bedi, BASc:
In my May 1, 2013 two part article, on the work of Vandana Shiva and major milestones achieved in the overall anti-GMO movement, that was published exclusively in The Bovine, and that has since gone viral across North America, I acknowledged some of the major food security and anti-GMO activists of our time.
Of course such an acknowledgement is cursory and can in no way come near to acknowledging all the sleepless efforts of millions of people, non-profit organizations, farmers and companies to identify and ultimately rid the planet of the menace of genetically-modified seed and the patenting of life forms. I also specifically mentioned a few distinguished and pioneering Food Security activists on the West Coast of Canada and today I would like to share some of the creativity of two more tireless anti-GMO food security activists and educators: Dr. Thierry Vrain and Tony Mitra ( www.tonu.org). Tony Mitra is a tireless podcaster, videographer, photographer and blogger, who like a bloodhound on its trail, endlessly seeks positive, real life, inspirational examples and expressions of anti-GMO and Food Security activism. To read Tony Mitra’s original May 1 article entitled “Dr. Thierry Vrain on the faulty science behind GMO technology“, which includes lots of colourful live video footage and photos of his visit and interview with Dr. Thierry Vrain in Courtenay,BC, please visit http://www.tonu.org/2013/05/01/thierry-vrain-at-innisfree-farm/.
Former Canadian GMO Scientist Dr.Thierry Vrain Speaks Out in Two Open Letters On The Real Dangers of Genetically Engineered Food
Dr. Thierry Vrain, is a former research scientist for Agriculture Canada who is now promoting awareness about the dangers of genetically modified foods. He was recently called upon by the Anti-GMO activist community in BC to issue a rebuttal to an infomercial on the benefits of GMO’s that the Vancouver Sun published, in its print and online edition, on behalf of Croplife, a partner of Monsanto. What was interesting was that the Vancouver Sun Editor initially refused to publish hundreds of other comments from anti-GMO activists because their statements were not “peer-reviewed” and represented “hearsay” yet Croplife did not backup a single one of its numerous claims in its original article. Finally, he relented and permitted Dr. Thierry Vrain to publish an Apr.29 rebuttal on behalf of all of us as he felt only he was sufficiently “credentialed” to offer up an opinion.
Dr. Vrain has graciously announced that he would like his rebuttal to be published as widely as possible and therefore gives full permission for anyone to share it anywhere. Since then these 2 open letters have gone viral and have been published in dozens of major Food Security blogs such as www.foodrevolution.org and hundreds of Facebook pages.
Part 4 – Dr. Thierry Vrain interviewed by BC Food Security activist Tony Mitra (www.tonu.org)
Parts 1 to 3 of this video series cover a colourful general tour of the thriving herbal sanctuary of Innisfree farm in Courtenay, BC. In Part 4, Dr. Vrain discusses the faulty assumptions of the biotech industry about how genes work, and how dangerous the consequences of that faulty science are proving to be.In the Part 5 video, Dr. Thierry Vrain further elaborates on the bad science behind the GMO technology on one side, and the absence of third party independent testing of the GMO products to assess health risks on the other.
B: Open Letter One by Dr.Thierry Vrain
“I retired 10 years ago after a long career as a research scientist for Agriculture Canada. When I was on the payroll, I was the designated scientist of my institute to address public groups and reassure them that genetically engineered crops and foods were safe. There is, however, a growing body of scientific research – done mostly in Europe, Russia, and other countries – showing that diets containing engineered corn or soya cause serious health problems in laboratory mice and rats.
I don’t know if I was passionate about it but I was knowledgeable. I defended the side of technological advance, of science and progress.
I have in the last 10 years changed my position. I started paying attention to the flow of published studies coming from Europe, some from prestigious labs that were published in prestigious scientific journals, that questioned the impact and safety of engineered food.
I refute the claims of the biotechnology companies that their engineered crops yield more, that they require less pesticide applications, that they have no impact on the environment and of course that they are safe to eat.
There are a number of scientific studies that have been done for Monsanto by universities in the U.S., Canada, and abroad. Most of these studies are concerned with the field performance of the engineered crops, and of course they find GMOs safe for the environment and therefore safe to eat.
Individuals should be encouraged to make their decisions on food safety based on scientific evidence and personal choice, not on emotion or the personal opinions of others.
We should all take these studies seriously and demand that government agencies replicate them rather than rely on studies paid for by the biotech companies.
The Bt corn and soya plants that are now everywhere in our environment are registered as insecticides. But are these insecticidal plants regulated and have their proteins been tested for safety? Not by the federal departments in charge of food safety, not in Canada and not in the U.S.
There are no long-term feeding studies performed in these countries to demonstrate the claims that engineered corn and soya are safe. All we have are scientific studies out of Europe and Russia, showing that rats fed engineered food die prematurely.
These studies show that proteins produced by engineered plants are different than what they should be. Inserting a gene in a genome using this technology can and does result in damaged proteins. The scientific literature is full of studies showing that engineered corn and soya contain toxic or allergenic proteins.
Genetic engineering is 40 years old. It is based on the naive understanding of the genome based on the One Gene – one protein hypothesis of 70 years ago, that each gene codes for a single protein. The Human Genome project completed in 2002 showed that this hypothesis is wrong.
The whole paradigm of the genetic engineering technology is based on a misunderstanding. Every scientist now learns that any gene can give more than one protein and that inserting a gene anywhere in a plant eventually creates rogue proteins. Some of these proteins are obviously allergenic or toxic.”
Open Letter Two
The following open letter was originally published as a summary reply to a letter and a debate via e-mail with Paul Horgen, former chair of Biotechnology at the University of Toronto. (Original source with e-mail replies from Dr.Horgen here at the Comox Valley Environmental Council.
“It is my wish that it (this reply) goes viral (so) as to educate as many people as possible rapidly. Any and all social media is fine by me. This can also be used as a briefing note for councilors or anywhere else. Thank you for your help.
I am turning you towards a recent compilation (June 2012) of over 500 government reports and scientific articles published in peer reviewed Journals, some of them with the highest recognition in the world. Like The Lancet in the medical field, or Advances in Food and Nutrition Research, or Biotechnology, or the Scandinavian Journal of Immunology, European Journal of Histochemistry, Journal of Proteome Research, etc. This compilation was made by a genetic engineer in London, and an investigative journalist who summarized the gist of the publications for the lay public.
GMO Myths and Truths – is an evidence based examination of the claims made for the safety and efficacy of genetically modified crops. A report of 120 pages, it can be downloaded for free from Earth Open Source. “GMO Myths and Truths” disputes the claims of the Biotech industry that GM crops yield better and more nutritious food, that they save on the use of pesticides, have no environmental impact whatsoever and are perfectly safe to eat.
Genetic pollution is so prevalent in North and South America where GM crops are grown that the fields of conventional and organic growers are regularly contaminated with engineered pollen and (with the latter) losing certification. The canola and flax export market from Canada to Europe (a few hundreds of millions of dollars) were recently lost because of genetic pollution.
I must also mention superweeds and what happens when RoundUp crops pass their genes on to RoundUp Resistant weeds. Apparently over 50% of fields in the USA are now infested and the growers have to go back to use other toxic herbicides such as 2-4 D. Many areas of Ontario and Alberta are now also infested. The transgenes are also transferred to soil bacteria. A Chinese study published last year shows that an ampicillin resistance transgene was transferred from local engineered crops to soil bacteria, and that it eventually found its way into the rivers. The transgenes are also transferred to humans. Volunteers who ate engineered soybeans had undigested DNA in their intestine and their bacterial flora began expressing the soybean transgenes in the form of antibiotic resistance. This is genetic pollution to the extreme, (and must be taken seriously) particularly when antibiotic resistance is fast becoming a serious global health risk. I can only hope that the American Medical Association will soon recognize its original poorly informed evaluation.
In 2009 the American Academy of Environmental Medicine called for a moratorium on GM foods, safety testing and labeling. Their review of the available literature at the time noted that animals show serious health risks associated with GM food consumption including infertility, immune dysregulation, accelerated aging, dysregulation of genes associated with cholesterol synthesis, insulin regulation, cell signaling, and protein formation, and changes in the liver, kidney, spleen and gastrointestinal system. Yet Monsanto writes, “There is no need to test the safety of GM foods. So long as the engineered protein is safe, foods from GM crops are substantially equivalent and they cannot pose any health risks.” The US Food and Drug Administration waived all levels of safety testing in 1996 prior to approving the commercialization of these crops. Nothing more than voluntary research is required, and the FDA does not even ask to see the results. And there is certainly no need to share or publish any of those results more widely. If you remember 1996, the year that the first crops were commercialized, the research scientists of the US FDA all predicted that transgenic crops would have unpredictable hard to detect side effects, allergens, toxins, nutritional effects, new diseases. That information was published in 2004 in Biotechnology if you recall seeing it.
I know well that Canada does not perform long term feeding studies as they do in Europe. The only study I am aware of from Canada is from the Sherbrooke Hospital in 2011, when doctors found that 93% of pregnant women and 82% of the fetuses tested had the protein pesticide in their blood. This is a protein recognized in its many forms as mildly to severely allergenic. There is no information on the role played by rogue proteins created by the process of inserting transgenes in the middle of a genome. But there is a lot of long term feeding studies reporting serious health problems in mice and rats. The results of the first long term feeding studies of lab rats reported last year in the ‘Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology’ show that they developed breast cancer in midlife and showed kidney and liver damage. The current statistic I read is that North Americans are eating 193 lbs of GMO food on average annually. I assume that includes children, not that I would use that as a scare tactic. But I wrote about it at length because I think there is cause for alarm and it is my duty to educate the public.
One argument I hear repeatedly is that nobody has been sick or died after a meal (or a trillion meals since 1996) of GM food. Nobody gets ill from smoking a pack of cigarette either. But it sure adds up, and we were not aware of that in the 1950s until we observed a wave of epidemics of cancer. Except this time it is not about localized cigarette smoke, it’s the whole food system that is of concern. The corporate interest must be subordinated to the public interest, and the policy of substantial equivalence must be scrapped as it is clearly untrue.
About the Author: Dr. Thierry Vrain had a 35 year career as a research scientist, teaching soil and molecular biology – what he now calls “chemical agriculture”, for the federal government in Québec and BC, in Vancouver and in Summerland. Ten years ago he retired and purchased an organic farm sanctuary, called Innisfree. He has become a gardener, a teacher, and a passionate speaker about all aspects of organic gardening – from soil health to GMO’s.
Furthermore , given the urgency of the times and the pervasiveness of the GMO menace, Dr. Vrain has announced that, beginning in the fall of 2013, he is available to travel and teach, about the myths and dangers of GMO’s, on weekends anywhere in Canada whether it be at conferences, horticultural societies, GMO and Food Security forums, lectures, universities and colleges.
About Innisfree Farm: www.innisfreefarm.org is an educational centre on Vancouver Island in Courtney, British Columbia. It offers workshops and other community programs on herbal medicine, organic gardening, permaculture, horticulture therapy, nutrition, and other relevant topics.”
C: Upcoming Events:
1.World-Wide March Against Monsant May 25
‘March Against Monsanto’ has announced that on May 25, tens of thousands of activists around the world will “March Against Monsanto.” Currently, marches are being planned on six continents, in 36 countries, totaling events in over 250 cities, and in the US, events are slated to occur simultaneously at 11 a.m. Pacific in 47 states. Join hundreds of thousands of people in hundreds of towns and cities world-wide in protest against Monsanto’s unethical practices, contamination of our environment , destruction of our heirloom seed stocks and overall domination of our food supply. For the locations of country-by-country local regional events please go to http://www.march-against-monsanto.com/p/blog-page.html .
2.Upcoming Podcast: On Wednesday, May 29, 2013 at 6:30 PM PST, Dr. Thierry Vrain will be interviewed by Andrew Rezmer of Vancouver’s Conscious Living Radio . Out of province listeners can hear it online . The topic of the interview is “GE Food Myths Versus Science”. The interview will also be archived for followup research purposes. Raoul Bedi, local food activist and blogger (Facebook: Canadian Raw Dairy Consumer Advocacy, is the official media sponsor of the interview. His company, Vedic Harmony Centre ( www.biofield.ca ), is a purveyor of Green Living media and Food Security solutions.
3. BC Community Forum on GM Food on June 5 With Dr.Thierry Vrain
You are invited to a Community Forum on GMO food.
Dr. Thierry Vrain will be speaking about the environmental and health concerns with the widespread use of GMOs(Genetically Modified Organisms, also known as GM foods).
Don’t know about the science? Well, come and have that explained by an expert. Do you have any questions or concerns about GMOs? Bring them and have them addressed. Come and learn what you are likely feeding your children.
About the Speaker
Dr. Thierry Vrain was a genetic engineer/scientist in agricultural research, former head of Biotechnology at Canadian Government Summerland Research Station. He believed in the promise of GMOs, that they would increase yields, increase nutritional content, reduce herbicide and pesticide use. Since then, he has read a lot of the research being done abroad, and now understands the claims for GMOs are contradicted by recent findings, and that GMOs pose real risks to our health, and the environment.
When: June 5, 7-9 pm
Where: Northwood United Church, 8855 156 Street, Surrey, BC
Global TV interview with “Kids Right to Know” GMO awareness organizer Rachel Parent. Rachel is 13 and lives in the Toronto area